Global System to the Test

It’s become popular in the politics of many nations to re-think free trade and globalism. Many people believe that something has gone terribly wrong and, for many reasons, politicians typically point to foreigners or a faceless “global order” as the problem.

This belief is not limited to the US by any means. It ranges from a sense of discomfort to a belief in “fair trade, not free trade” to outright sneering at “globalists”. Is there something wrong in the global order?

The short answer is yes, but the long answer is incredibly long and, interestingly enough, green on the back.

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Target the Future

Target stores are raising their employees’ minimum wages to $11 per hour immediately, with a pledge to hit $15 per hour by 2020.

This may seem like a victory for the Democratic platform to raise all workers’ pay to a livable wage, and in many ways it is. But it’s also an important victory for the free market, which is proving that the cyclical depression of workers wages was indeed a temporary, demographically driven problem which will be overcome. It just takes a tremendous amount of time – really a full generation.  More importantly, it shows the direction of retail and possibly the service industry as a whole does have a future as an important part of a dynamic economy. Continue reading

E-Z Reform

Republicans need to produce tax reform, but can’t agree on much.  Here is a post from two years ago which outlines an easy way to make something happen and claim victory.  It may even be good policy.

Tax reform is on the minds of many Republican candidates, and that’s a good thing. Donald Trump revealed a plan, suggesting he may be a serious candidate after all. This announcement came as his poll numbers were slipping, so we may have a hint what voters think about actual policies. Jeb Bush released his plan earlier this month with the distinction of being called “weird”.

The point is that we are talking about taxes and serious tax reform, which is good. No one should expect one plan to suddenly spring forward and cut through the elaborate mess we have. Then again, once the knife is out, you could carve a better tax code out of a banana. But what really is needed? What is “simplification” or “reform”? Let’s start at the beginning.

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The Storms Behind, The Storms Ahead

How many disasters can we take at once? The short answer is that while the US is continuing to rebound nicely as the economy restructures, it’s still a very delicate process. Unemployment is low in much of the nation, or at least a lot lower than we have seen for a long time. But the process is uneven, bypassing rural areas and older workers unable or unwilling to essentially start over with entirely new careers.

Upsets like major storms are enough to put the whole process in jeopardy, especially when there are two right in a row. This should be the year when everything changes, but it hasn’t been working very well. A lack of leadership and a general sense of drift isn’t helping us take off. The storms? Big enough for a solid recession, without a doubt.

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Double Irish

Another bizzy day demands a repeat, this from just last year.  Little has changed since then, and if anything corporate taxes are only closer to the front burner.  Maybe.

In a victory for corporate taxes everywhere, Apple has been ordered to pay as much as €13 billion ($14.7 billion) in back taxes to Ireland. Or, perhaps, in a loss for workers everywhere, a reluctant Ireland is forced to go back on its agreement with Apple to base its European operations there in exchange for much needed tax breaks. Or, perhaps, corporate tax harmonization has been dealt a terrible setback as the European Union (EU) has claimed their turf in what should be hammered out through an international agreement.

What we do know for sure is the massive penalty, the largest ever imposed, is a big blow to Apple, amounting to …. around 7% of their massive $200 billion cash reserves. Unless, of course,  the Republic of Ireland can justify a smaller bill, which they are very much keen to do. So nevermind.

Like corporate taxes themselves, today’s big story is completely negotiable and dependent on your perspective. There will be more to this, but nothing even remotely obvious will happen in the immediate future.

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Never-Ending Sequels

The announcement has rolled through Wisconsin. $3 billion in aid will land a total of 13,00 jobs somewhere around Kenosha. Or maybe less. Or maybe it won’t happen at all, like past promises. But it’s a great deal, one that will create jobs.

It’s hard to say exactly what the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer is going to do given how quickly the breathless announcement came out. What matters is that it had to be announced because it’s not actually about jobs or anything tangible. All of this is just a very expensive form of political theater, allbeit with stakes lower than last week’s show. Government is here to fix the economy and provide jobs, right? So here ya go.

Like many sequels dished up by Hollywood this is a must-see summer thriller. It’s following a well established formula that everyone loves. And like those movies, it begs the question – where did this come from?

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Resiliency and Interdependence

Long ago, most Americans lived as Laura Ingalls Wilder chronicled in the “Little House” series.  Pa Ingalls and family were out in the wilderness, living with the rhythm of the land and putting away what they could to survive long winters and perhaps beyond.  The family’s net worth was what they had around them.

That life has been replaced with interdependence based on a dollar value assigned to absolutely everything.  We all get by with any extra scratch, should there be some, not stored up to get through the winter but properly invested in convertible assets.  This means everyone is subject to  the “free market”, which determines the value of all assets including experience, talent, and work.

That interdependence has changed our world to one with much less hard work or struggles against nature, and yet to many it has become as hostile as any winter on the Great Plains.
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